What are phonetics and phonology?

... this question will be answered in the following interview between Prof. Dr. Alexander Bergs and Anne Reiners (Osnabrück University)

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"Most educated people already have opinions about language. They know that it is man´s most important cultural invention, the quintessential example of his capacity to use symbols, and a biologically unprecedented event irrevocably separating him from other animals... They also know that English is a zany, logic-defying tongue, in which one drives on a parkway and parks in a driveway, plays at a recital and recites at a play. They know that English spelling takes such wackiness to even greater heights - George Bernard Shaw complained that fish could just as sensibly be spelled ghoti (gh as in tough, o as in women, ti as in nation) - and that only institutional inertia prevents the adoption of a more rational, spell-it-like-it-sounds system." (Pinker, 1994, 17 f)

Knowledge of language includes knowledge of morphemes, words, phrases and sentences. Morphology as a linguistic discipline covers the structure of words. Syntax explains sentence patterns. Lexicology and Semantics describe the vocabulary, or lexicon, and explore different aspects of meaning. Pragmatics deals with language in use. But knowledge of language also includes knowing what sounds are in the language and how they may be strung together to form meaningful units.

Source of the picture: wikipedia.org

Bernard Shaw´s fish-ghoti-example points to the fact that there is a discrepancy between pronunciations and written representations for many (and not only English) words. This makes it important for us to distinguish between the sounds of a language and the way they are represented in writing.

The two subfields of linguistics which study the sound system of a language are called phonetics (the study of human speech sounds) and phonology (the study of how sounds are organized and used in natural languages). Move on to Focus and Content to learn more about these fascinating branches of linguistics.

Categories: Glossary

All modules of General Linguistics are divided into 3 areas: focus and content, exercises and tools & extras. Use the various short texts and attached exercises in each module in addition to your textbooks and make use of our extensive annotated reading lists and tools to improve your knowledge according to your needs. All subfields in the area focus and content are linked to several exercises, designed for the respective topics in three degrees of difficulty. You can either work through the texts and attached exercises in the given order or you can move on directly to the area exercises to improve your skills where necessary.